By Clifford Ndujihe
Explosions claim 1,200 lives in 24 years , •Compensation trickles in for victims
•Jonathan must unmask perpetrators or…  – Balarabe Musa, •Asking Jonathan to resign is madness – Ezeife, •Service chiefs must go – Kalu, •Shonibare, Mbagwu, others speak, •Nigeria’s litany of explosions

Gradually, explosions are creeping in as a way of life in Nigeria, especially in the southern parts.

For over 16 years, the nation was calm after the shellings during the Nigeria- Biafra civil war of 1967 to 1970. But the calmness was violated on October 19, 1986 when a parcel bomb killed Mr. Dele Giwa, the founding Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch Magazine, in Lagos. Since then, there have been over 23 explosions across the country in which about 1,200 persons were killed.

These exclude the avalanche of detonation of dynamites and explosives in the Niger-Delta by militants in their quest to disrupt oil production via blowing up oil pipelines and facilities, to press home their demand for resource control and true federalism.

The Independence Day twin bomb blasts that killed 12 persons including 11 policemen and injured 36 others was the 24th in the series of blasts since 1986. Occurring at a time the nation was marking her 50th independence anniversary, the latest blasts are generating thick controversies and intrigues that are pushing the nation to the edge of the precipice ahead the 2011 transition polls.

The polity is awash with claims and counter-claims over the perpetrators of the act. President Goodluck Jonathan’s linking of the incident to terrorists and not the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta, MEND, which had claimed responsibility, elicited criticisms from a section of the country. Leaders of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, which has been against Jonathan’s re-election ambition, asked him to resign within seven days or face impeachment.

And the verbal exchanges have been intense.

‘Name   culprits or be guilty of gross misconduct’
Leading politicians such as Second Republic Governor of old Kaduna State and Chairman of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, Alh. Balarabe Musa and Third Republic Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, were among those who spoke on the issue yesterday just as succour started coming the way of the victims, albeit in trickles, eight days after the blast.

Speaking on calls on Jonathan to resign, Musa said the move was too early. However, he said after seven days the President could be said to be guilty of gross misconduct if he did not name the perpetrators.

Asked if he supported the call for Jonathan’s resignation, Musa said: “No, it is too early to pursue this line. But if President Jonathan, as the chief security officer of the country, fails to name those involved after this week because he said he knows them, his statement and conduct will amount to gross misconduct, which is an impeachable offence.”

The politician said if the government had faithfully implemented the amnesty programme for militants and did not budget N6.6 billion for the50th independence anniversary celebration, the incident might have been avoided.

A litany of explosions
Apart the shelling experienced during the Nigeria-Biafra civil of 1967 to 1970 as well as the numerous shattering of oil pipelines and facilities by Niger Delta militants, Nigeria has witnessed an avalanche of bomb explosions since 1986 in which 1,200 lives had been lost. They include:

* October 1, 2010 – A twin Car bomb blasts kill 12, injuring 36 in Abuja.
* June 1, 2010. Two bombs exploded behind the perimeter fence of White Eagle Hotel in the Etegwe suburb owned by one Chief Nathan Ile and at the former Bayelsa Deputy Governor, Peremobowei Ebebi’s private residence in Yenagoa.

* March 15, 2010 – Bomb blast rocks Post-Amnesty Summit being organised by Vanguard Newspapers in Delta State with no casualty.
* December 22, 2009 A parcel bomb exploded in the premises of Superscreen, a private television station, in the Onipanu area of Lagos, ripping off the right hand of the conveyer of the explosive device.

* July 12, 2009 MEND attacks Atlas Cove, an oil facility in Lagos, with dynamite and guns killing 5.

* December 13, 2006. Thugs attack Delta State PDP Secretariat in Asaba with explosives.

* December 11, 2006. Thugs attack Ndudi Elumelu’s campaign office in Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency, Delta with dynamites.

* December 5, 2006. Dynamites exploded at then Governor Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign office in Bayelsa State.

* Novemebr 28, 2006. A car bomb explosion killed one Godwin Aigbekhai in Owan East Local Council, Edo State.

Victims-of-bomb-blsats

* November 25, 2006. An explosion destroyed parts of PDP secretariat in Bayelsa State.

* January 27, 2002. An avalanche of bombs exploded at the Ikeja depot of Nigerian Army Cantonment, Ikeja, killing some base staff and their families on the spot. It led to a stampede, which claimed more lives at a Oke-Afa canal, Ejigbo. About 1,100 persons, in all, died.

* December 13, 1997. Lt-Gen Oladipo Diya escapes death at Abuja airport.
* May 12, 1997. Explosion rocks Ibadan in front of Federal Ministry of Works and Housing at Eleyele Road, near Jericho Hospital.

* April 22, 1997. Blast in Evans square claims 3 lives, injures several.
* January 17, 1997. Bus belonging to Nigerian army hit.
* December 18, 1996. Bus belonging to Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation hit.

* December 16, 1996. Bomb blast rock Colonel Mohammed Buba Marwa’s convoy.
* November 14, 1996. Explosion occurs at Murtala Mohammed Airport, claiming the life of the Chief Security Officer.

* April 25, 1996. Explosions shake Airforce Base, Ikeja.
* April 11, 1996: Ikeja Cantonment, Lagos.
* January 20, 1996. Explosion at Aminu Kano Int’l Airport, Kano.

* January 18, 1996. Durbar Hotel, Kaduna bombed with suspected bomber killed.
* May 31, 1995. Ilorin Stadium rocked just before launch of Family Support Programme.

* October 19, 1986. A parcel bomb killed Dele Giwa, the founding Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch Magazine in Lagos.

Resignation call is madness – Ezeife
On his part, Ezeife described the call for Jonathan’s resignation as madness. “I don’t understand the madness. There is no basis for it. It is like madness,” he told Saturday Vanguard on phone.

Ezeife urged the government to compensate the victims, whose only offence was heeding a call to come out and celebrate the nation.

Others, who bemoaned the fate of the victims, noting that some of them have dependents and canvassed help for them include Secretary of the CNPP, Mr. Osita Okechukwu; stalwart of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO and Lagos State Chairman of the Democratic Peoples Alliance, DPA, Chief Supo Shonibare; Secretary of Ndigbo Lagos, Mr. Kalu Onuma and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Management Consultant, Chief Cliff Mbagwu.

Mbagwu, who feared that the blasts might be connected with attempts to stop President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid, said “those innocent victims should be compensated as they are victims of our collective failure as a nation.”

He said he found it difficult to believe that the blast was the handiwork of  Niger Delta Militants and canvassed a comprehensive investigation of the incident.

It’s plot to blackmail Jonathan
“Why would the Niger Deltans bomb the first ever independence anniversary celebration presided over by a president of their own stock? For me, this looks like the “Hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob” Is it not possible that the anti-Jonathan forces are resorting to terrorism to blackmail the regime?

No matter the number of bombs exploded in Abuja, Jonathan and Sambo remain the best choice for 2011. They present Nigerians  the best opportunity for a new beginning, a chance to walk away from a past of corruption and mis- governance, a past riddled with the bones and stained with the blood of innocent citizens – men and women slain in the pursuit of hegemony,” he averred.

Speaking in like manner, Onuma, however, cautioned against the use of the word ‘compensation.’ Rather, he said the victims should be ‘supported.’ “I think the victims should be supported and not compensated. This is not the first time we will be having bomb blasts.

They are not the first victims. There are many victims of bomb blasts, ethno-religious violence, Boko Haram mayhem, etc across the country. If we say ‘compensation’ it might cause more problems. The government should support the victims.”

Service chiefs should resign

More importantly, Onuma contended that the government could start dealing with the major trauma of the bomb blasts by sacking all the service chiefs or get them to resign.

“It doesn’t matter if they are new. It happened under their watch. We need to reshuffle the security chiefs, they have failed . Government should start the healing process by sacking them to reduce the psychological trauma.”

For Okechukwu, “the government should compensate the victims because of the government’s incompetence and gross negligence. ‘We are waiting for President Jonathan to tell us what happened since he knows the culprits. The victims should be compensated because going by Section 14 of the Constitution, the primary purpose of government is to provide welfare and security,” he added.

Why explosions ‘re rife – Shonibare
Shonibare also said that all victims of “terrorist attack due to failure of government to protect and secure our lives and property should be compensated for their loss by the government.”

However, he cautioned: “We must not ignore the underlining predatory governments we have had at the local, state and federal levels and the inevitable purposeless governments, which are the natural consequences of such rulership.

The restless largely unemployed and mostly unemployable youth population feed upon the conspicuous consumption display of wealth by our rulers and seek to imitate them.

But as they do not have access to public funds, they resort to kidnapping, thuggery, armed robbery, pipeline vandalisation and other deviant behaviour, in order to acquire wealth.”

“There is no doubt that many of us were of the opinion that the political instability and leadership and economic development failures being the bane of our polity in the past 50 years, without any discernible development likely to alter this trajectory in the future, was a moment for sober reflection and not an opportunity to further deplete the treasury by elaborate expenditure.

However, the eventual celebration and large expenditure do not justify the terrorist attack on innocent citizens. We object to the resort to violence as the means of addressing the several injustices in our country,” he added.

Succour comes in trickles

President Jonathan during his visit to the National Hospital, Abuja to see victims had assured the victims of government’s assistance, saying that the Federal Government wouldl pick up their bills and also assist the families of the dead ones.

“Surely, Federal Government will take care of the bills and we are going to reach out to the families of those who have lost their lives and see the little the government can do to cushion the effect of the loss,” he said.

So far, the government has kept its promise of medical attention but nothing has been heard about financial compensation. The few compensations now are from other quarters.

The leadership of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP led by Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu visited the victims at the hospital in Abuja and donated one million naira. In like manner, Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State donated N1.1 million to the family of Alhaji Sulaiman Omotosho Aremu, a director of SSS in Abuja. Aremu, a Kwara indigene, was one of the 10 security agents who died in the blast.

More assistance is still being expected as some of the victims were mortally injured.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.